There is No Magic Bullet in Social Media Measurement

Recently  a post from Avanish Kaushik was put before me for consideration. The post was “Best Social Media Metrics: Conversation, Amplification, Applause, Economic Value” and in reading it I personally found some flaws with his overall approach which I wanted to address.

Measurement Isn’t So Simple:

Knowing how complex websites and search are, Avinash should know that good measurement cannot be simplified into a few key metrics across everything and everyone. Despite this he tries to do just that with his proposed 4 metrics for measuring social media.

Different companies have different goals for what they want to achieve in Social media and assigning metrics that don’t take this into account can potentially side track these initiatives. For example in the case of say Avinash’s Conversation rate  it doesn’t speak to the quality of the conversations that a firm may want to see or the  overall goal of the content they put out. With such a focused scope these metrics don’t  take into account the many other variables that can be tracked on corporate social media channels.

The size of the fan base does matter:

Another downside I see with the type of measures that Avinash suggests is that it does not take into account the audience that the company taps into. Without taking into account a firm’s fan base an even grounding is not created to ensure a comparable measure across fan sizes. Instead what more often than not will happen is that these measures will present  a constantly increasing ratio because a larger fan base often results in more engagement.

Outside of large spikes when there is a fan base drive or large campaign, a measure that does not take fan base into account will most likely continually go up in a linear fashion. The downside of this  is that it’s not easy to discern what proportion of a fan base is engaged. As a result there is no clear way to determine whether an initiative was successful.

Measuring Awareness Still Matters:

Much like with television or radio advertising, simple exposure to social media messaging still has an effect on consumers whether they act on this immediately or if this changes their habits further down the road. While this makes sales attribution difficult, measuring how far your content reaches  is still important. Unfortunately for Avinsash’s framework it does not take content exposure into account. By knowing your content reach you are a better able to compare and contrast initiatives to see if there was a discernible change in a firms end outcome as a result of marketing messaging.

With developing field like Social Media to make broad statements like “the 4 best social media metrics” in my opinion is harmful. What this does is it has the potential to close people’s minds to other alternatives and  more meaningful approaches. That’s why beyond the fact of perhaps not being too public with my work (for confidentiality reasons of course…) I won’t say that one measure stands above all the rest.   Instead my answer will continually be that measures need to be formed based on the end user’s goals and what they are trying to better understand.



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